Aug 29, 2016

Cheesy Goodness: Chicken Pesto Lasagna

The pesto sauce used here was made with Chinese basil, since I had too much left from making stir fry dishes. However, regular basil works just as well for this lasagna recipe. Whichever way is easier for you, and the same goes with cheese blend. As long as there are some milky kind and some saltier version there, just bake away.

Chicken pesto lasagna -



Ingredients (for 3 to 4 portions)?

For the pesto sauce:

  • 2 cups of basil leaves
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


Others:

  • 6 sheets lasagna pasta
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 pack shredded cheese blend
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup pesto sauce
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Some olive oil


How?

You can always use store bought pesto sauce, but since it's so easy to make and store in the freezer for an extended period of time, why not do it yourself? Plus I've always got leftover fresh basil leaves after cooking one dish, making pesto sauce naturally becomes the best thing to do to further utilize leftover ingredients.


Use a food processor, add in all the ingredients under the "pesto sauce" section but only use half of the olive oil first. Give it a few pulses first then blend well while slowly pouring in the remaining olive oil. Once smooth, taste and see if more salt is needed. 


This pesto sauce recipe yields more than we need for the lasagna, simply store any unused sauce in the freezer for future use. It can be a great flavor booster when served with salad or as sandwich spread.


For the lasagna, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a baking dish with butter, olive oil, or cooking spray. I used a 9X6X12 baking dish for this recipe.


Bring a big pot of water to a boil, add few pinches of salt to the water. Carefully add in the lasagna pasta sheets. Once softened, gently give it a swirl to prevent these sheets from sticking together. Cook till al dente, drain well, and set aside for later use. Rinse with cold water to separate the sheets if needed during the assembling process, remember to pat dry the sheets.

You can measure the baking dish with lasagna pasta to check on the number of pasta sheets needed. Keep in mind that these sheets will enlarge after boiling. 

Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a pan along with peeled cubed onion, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Give it a quick stir and continue to cook till the edges of the onion turned slightly browned. Add in ground chicken and stir constantly to break the meat apart into little pieces. 

Once the chicken is about 80% cooked through, add in one cup of tomato sauce and dried Italian seasoning. Mix and keep cooking till reduced a little. 

To assemble the lasagna, start from the bottom to the very top layer: 
Pasta sheet
Tomato meat sauce
Shredded cheese blend
Paste sheet
Pesto sauce
Tomato meat sauce
Shredded cheese blend
Pasta
Pure tomato sauce (not cooked with ground chicken)
Shredded cheese blend

Simply add more layers if there are more leftover ingredients, but always make sure to have generous amount of shredded cheese on top. Of course you can also alter the ingredients used in between layers, it's a pretty free and up-to-you recipe. 


Cover the baking dish with foil and into the oven, bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for another 25 minutes. 

Wait till the lasagna cools down a little bit before serving.


Make sure to adjust the amount of salt used based on actual sauces and cheese blend used. Served with Tabasco sauce if a more fiery taste is preferred. 


Run down the edges with a knife before pulling up the lasagna, otherwise the cheese might cling on the baking dish and ruined the perfect square-ish rectangular shape. 


I didn't have enough cheese on hand, otherwise more more cup of cheese can make this dish even more comforting. There's never such a thing as too much cheese.


Other recipes using pesto sauce:


Aug 23, 2016

Japanese Comfort Food - Gyudon (Beef and Rice Bowl) for Two

If you ever had Yoshinoya, a Japanese fast food chain that can also be spotted in some locations in the United States, especially CA and NV, then you'll know what gyudon is. Steamed white rice topped with tender beef and onion slices. While the soy sauce provides the saltiness, you can also taste a combination of sweetness from the mirin, onion, and beef fat. 

The best way to serve it, in my opinion, is to top the gyudon with a raw egg yolk. The creaminess of the yolk rounds up all the sweet and savory flavors. Besides, kind of like bacon, egg yolk also makes things better.

Gyudon with egg yolk - 




Ingredients (for two)?

  • 20 t0 24 beef slices
  • 1 onion
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons Japanese rice cooking wine 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped scallion
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • Small pinch salt
  • Small pinch black pepper
  • Some steamed white rice
  • Some toasted white sesame seeds
  • Some mizuna as garnish (optional)



How?

Peel and slice the onion.

Drizzle some olive oil to the pan and turn to medium high heat. Add in salt and pepper.




Stir once a while and cook till the edges of the onion slices turned slightly browned.

Pour in soy sauce, mirin, Japanese rice cooking wine, and sugar. Stir a little. Bring to a boil then lower to medium heat, keep it at a simmer for couple more minutes.

Add in the beef slices one by one, do not dump all the beef slices at once. Cook till about 90% doneness, taste and adjust the flavor with soy sauce if needed.

To serve the gyudon, scoop some steamed rice to a serving bowl then pour in the beef mixture. Create a shallow center by pushing the toppings outward. Sprinkle some toasted white sesame seeds and chopped scallions first then finish the dish with a raw egg yolk in the center.



Garnish with mizuna or other fresh leafy greens on the side if preferred. 



This might not sound as a classic combination but adding some pickled daikon on the side pairs nicely with this beef and rice bowl. 


Other donburi/rice bowl recipes: